Google acquires travel software company for $700 million
The Justice Department has given Google the green light to purchase ITA Software, a Cambridge, Mass-based company that organizes airline data and controls the reservation systems of most major US airlines and online fare-comparison sites such as Kayak, TripAdvisor, and Hotwire. Google announced their intentions to acquire the company last July.
Antitrust regulators reviewed the deal, and approved the $700 million acquisition provided that Google comply with certain conditions. Google will be required to license the software to other companies, and cannot access any proprietary data or technology that exist in the ITA system. Google has stated that they will honor ITA's existing contracts and extend them into 2016.
This acquisition may very well revolutionize the way we search for airfares. If all goes according to plan, type "flights to somewhere sunny for under $500 in May" and your search results will give you exact flight times, prices, and quick links to airlines and travel websites where you can buy a ticket. Although ITA does not sell tickets and this is unlikely to change under Google's direction, other online fare-comparison sites—such as Kayak, HipMunk and Bing—may be hurt by the merger.
What do you think? Is this good for travelers? What would you like to see in a travel search engine or fare comparision site?
— Madeline Grimes
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What's your biggest language gaffe?
When navigating a foreign country, you have a lot to consider. Certain cultural traits, customs, body language—and the local language. We try our best not to commit cultural crimes, but it's hard! Sometimes what we think is an innocent gesture is actually completely offensive, or a Tango misstep in Buenos Aires can leave you dancing solo. But there's something about a non-native speaker trying to talk with the locals, especially if slang is attempted, that really brings out the blunders—and quite a bit of laughter. While traveling in Central and South America, I said "despacio, por favor" (slowly, please) more times than I'd like to admit while attempting conversations with locals. I was routinely (but politely) laughed at for my accent, especially in Argentina, whose accent is much different than the Central American Spanish I studied in school. One particularly bad language snafu of mine was in Quepos, Costa Rica. I just got back to my hostel from hiking nearby Manuel Antonio National Park and I desperately needed a shower. Unfortunately, I finished my bar of soap the day before so I decided to run into town and restock. When I walked into the pharmacy, I asked the pharmacist—while mock lathering my arm, for emphasis—"¿Ud. tiene sopa?" Turns out, I asked the pharmacist if she had any soup, not soap! Needless to say, she died laughing. "No, no tengo sopa," she responded, "No, no I don't have soup." A bar of soap, for the record, is jabón. Another language faux pas of mine was on a bus in Mendoza, Argentina. I kept on confusing cambio, which means when something changes, like the temperature, with moneda, which means coins—or what we Americans think of as change. So when I asked the driver if he had change so I could buy my bus ticket with a larger bill (I later learned there were ticket kiosks on the bus... another gaffe) he thought I was asking him if he could change me as a person. He was confused. My colleague here at Budget Travel, Laura Michonski, frequently confused "J'ai fini," which means, "I'm done" with "Je suis finis," which means, "My life is over" while traveling in Paris. In restaurants, waiters would ask, "Are you still working on this?" and she'd respond, "No, my life is over." Now it's your turn, what's the biggest language faux pas you've committed while traveling? Tell us below! MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Vote now in our Readers' Choice Awards! What is your favorite travel book? What do you collect on your travels?
News: Highway 1 hit by massive mudslides
Planning a scenic drive down California's Highway 1 in the near future? You may want to start making alternate plans—unless you like mud, road closures, and hours-long detours. After a series of three mudslides rocked the coast, Monterey County is still reeling. About two weeks ago, at Rocky Creek, entire hunks of the roadway plummeted into the Pacific. Local news sources are reporting that the road in this area will be closed for about four more weeks to accommodate lengthy repairs. More recently, 38 miles south of Big Sur in Alder Creek, tons of debris fell onto the highway below. Crews from the Department of Transportation are currently clearing the way. This comes on the heels of a similar mudslide, which caused road closures near Limekiln State Park last week. The Monterey County Weekly reports that the disaster has effectively put travel into and out of the Big Sur area on indefinite hold. Restaurants, bars, and shops that usually count on tourist dollars have been forced to depend on locals for the bulk of their business. For updates on road conditions and closings, check the California Department of Transportation website or call (800) 427-7623. And remember to vote for your favorite domestic scenic drive in our annual Readers' Choice Awards. The Pacific Coast Highway is currently in the lead! MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: The Best Drive in the American Southwest World's Most Beautiful Waterfalls How to Score Tickets to the London 2012 Olympics
Vote now in our Readers' Choice Poll!
We know you know travel. So tell us! Make your travel opinions count by voting in our second annual Readers' Choice Awards, where we're ranking your favorite (and sometimes least favorite) airlines, airports, destinations, cruise lines, hotels, food city, and much more. We're also polling your travel preferences: do you plan ahead, for example, or are you more spur of the moment? Do you prefer connections so you can get the cheapest flight, or do you spend the extra cash to fly there direct? Are you a windows person, or do you like the extra legroom on the aisle? As of now, Southwest Airlines is comfortably leading our Favorite Airlines category, and most of you would rather show yourself around a city than take a guided tour. Disagree? Then vote! The results will be featured in our November 2011 issue.
Undeterred spring breakers head to Mexico
A lot has been made about whether the popular spring break destination of Mexico is safe for college-aged partiers amid ongoing reports of drug-related violence south of the border. But, spring breakers are a determined and resilient bunch. Despite the fact that the Texas Department of Public Safety issued a strong statement this month discouraging spring breakers from heading to Mexico because of continued violence, and the U.S. State Department still has a travel warning to Mexico in place, student and youth travel companies say that Mexico is actually making a comeback on their lists of top spring break spots. Funjet Vacations saw a 15% increase in spring breakers heading to Mexico this March compared to last year, the majority of which are heading to the white sands and crystal waters resort peninsula of Cancun. StudentUniverse.com noted that Cancun shot up to its second most popular international spring break destination this year from the fifth spot last year. London ranked first both years. Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and Paris filled out the remaining top five global spots. London and Paris topped the list at student travel specialist STA Travel, followed by Cancun in the third spot. "Cancun is still in the third spot, which isn't really surprising to us. It's a very safe destination," said Patrick Evans of STA Travel. Evans acknowledged that STA Travel does not encourage spring breakers to travel near the U.S.-Mexico border and has discontinued itineraries that include border towns. And while Mexico is regaining the confidence of spring breakers, perhaps it’s no surprise that culturally rich (and safe) destinations in Europe have been more popular in recent years. "We’ve seen a pretty sizeable shift towards the more culturally enriching destinations," said Evans. In tough economic times, “it may be difficult to convince your parents to fund your spring break trip. A lot of kids really are on the college track. They tend to be looking for the more enriching trips.” For those who still haven't decided where to go for spring break (or just for a spring getaway, for those of for whom spring break is a distant memory!) there are still numerous last-minute spring break deals on the market. STA Travel and StudentUniverse.com have a host of last chance deals to Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe and in the U.S. (a quick search on STA Travel’s site found a trip from New York to Cancun for three nights this weekend, air-inclusive, for as low as $1,300). StudentCity.com sells party packages, ranging from open bar packages to options for skipping the lines and cover charges at clubs. And Funjet Vacations also features last-minute travel deals to popular fun-and-sun destinations. More from Budget Travel: Mexico: The elusive truth about safety Loreto, Mexico, From $104 a Night Fly to Mexico starting at $96 each way